Democratic New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has joined U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif) and more than two dozen colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce sweeping pharmaceutical reforms to reduce skyrocketing consumer drug prices for millions of New Jerseyans and Americans who struggle to afford their medicine.
“There is no reason that, in a country as rich as ours, Americans should be choosing between paying for prescription drugs and paying for food and other necessities,” said Booker in a January 10 statement announcing the Democratic package of legislation to grapple with rising drug costs.
The Democratic legislative strategy to put the brakes on rising drug costs is included in the three introduced Senate bills. The first one, The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, pegs the price of prescription drugs in the United States to the median price in five major countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan. The second, Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D. The third, The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, allows patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries. This bill was originally introduced by Senators Booker, Sanders, and Ranking Minority Member Bob Casey (D-PA), of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, in 2017.
Americans Call for Lower Drug Costs
The legislative package is overwhelmingly supported by the American people. Seventy-two percent of Americans favor allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, and 92 percent of the American people support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, notes Booker.
Booker says, “And incredibly, despite an enormous tax windfall from the Trump tax cuts, drug manufacturers aren’t lowering prices – they’re issuing stock buybacks to their shareholders and in many cases raising prices. Congress can’t sit on the sidelines while this is going on. That’s why I’m supporting this comprehensive approach to reduce the growing cost of prescription drugs, including a renewed push to pass our bill to safely import prescription drugs from Canada and other countries.”
According to Booker, in Canada and other major countries, the same medications, manufactured by the same companies, in the same factories are available for a fraction of the price compared to the United States. This is unacceptable to Booker and his Senate and House colleagues
Adds, Sanders, “The United States pays by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. [In 2017, Americans spent $1,208 per person on prescription drugs while Canadians spent $860 and people in the U.K. spent $476.] This has created a health care crisis in which 1 in 5 American adults cannot afford to get the medicine they need.” Sanders says he threw the legislation in the hopper to drastically slash the cost of prescription drugs. “If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them,” the Senator says.
96 Drug Price Hikes for Every Tax Cut in 2018
“President Donald Trump said repeatedly during his campaign that he would take action against drug companies and bring down prices. But in the first seven months of 2018 alone, there were 96 drug price hikes for every price cut. Four major drug manufacturers combined made more than $50 billion in profits last year, said Booker,” citing these examples to support the need for the Senate Democratic legislative fix.
Last month, Booker introduced a bill to boost transparency of states’ Medicaid drug decisions. And earlier in 2018, the New Jersey Senator published a comprehensive report outlining how drug companies were not using their newfound tax savings from the GOP tax bill to lower prescription drug prices and were instead using the windfall on stock buybacks. He wrote to the CEOs of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies sharing his findings and urging them to do more to lower drug prices.